Girls need the freedom to choose their own destinies. Education is the key to achieving that

Share
Related Topics

My mother is a teacher. She taught me that a woman's most empowering weapon is education. I was fortunate to have been born into a middle-class family in Mumbai. But I encountered many girls who were expected to get married at a certain age and, in doing so, call an end to their educational life. Their career paths were not decided by them and, in many cases, they didn't have a career.

The East is rife with blind faith and superstition. It is heartbreaking that, even today, certain cultures are still mired in age-old traditions that remain unquestioned. Some of these are oppressive. I had heard about female genital mutilation, but it was only after a visit to Sierra Leone that I realised how culturally accepted it was there. It's the same with girls in India being married off at an age when they're too young to understand what is happening. Or pregnant girls who have not been told what is happening to their bodies.

Where do you even start to address these challenges? Imagine the struggle of teaching people who have had hundreds of years of heritage and tradition dictate the path of their lives.

Often, the issues are tangled in history. You can't set about tackling early female pregnancy without addressing the lack of sex education or family planning in the generations before. And how do you explain how damaging female pregnancy is to a 14-year-old girl who is in the grips of experiencing it? Try telling parents that there are better and more humane ways for your daughter to bring home money than by forcing her into prostitution? All the answers lie in one cure: long-term education. That's what I hope to facilitate in the next few years with Plan International.

So far, I've been to Sierra Leone and will visit seven more countries this year, including Ethiopia, India, Egypt and Nepal. My mission is to spread awareness. In West Africa recently, I met a 13-year-old girl who harboured a dream to become a finance minister. By talking to her about my own experience and firing her imagination, I hope to have sowed the seeds of change. Often, it just needs a spark of inspiration: we saw it recently in India where the boxer Mary Kom, from a small village in Manipur, won an Olympic medal. Her journey inspired the country.

Over the next few months, I want to speak to girls and inspire them to take new messages home to their families. That's where the difference will be made. I want people to feel empowered enough to stand up for themselves. I want them to be able to say: "I don't want to drop out of school or jump into marriage. I want to finish my education and then chase my dreams."

It is impossible for me to imagine a life in which I didn't have the freedom to choose what I wanted. It suffocates me even thinking about it. I want others to feel that way too.

Freida Pinto is the face of Plan International's 'Because I Am a Girl' advertising campaign

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Take a moment to imagine you're Ed Miliband...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Letters: No vote poses difficult questions – so why rush?

Independent Voices
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits